The National has come a long way since toiling in obscurity as an unfashionable band in the most fashionable music scene on the planet. Before Alligator, the band’s third record, caught on (slowly) with critics and (even more slowly) with the public, the music press ignored the National. Or worse, saddled them (incorrectly) with the “alt-country” tag, which in the early-’00s New York City rock scene was akin to being put on a sex-offenders registry. Formed in 1999 by Berninger and two sets of brothers — Aaron and Bryce, who both play guitar, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf, who make up the rhythm section — the National released their self-titled debut one month after the Strokes put out their first record. An unfocused mélange of classic-rock hero worship (particularly Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen) and ’90s indie touchstones (like a twangier Pavement, or a less dynamic version of “twangy Pavement”–era Wilco), The National is the weakest entry in the band’s discography; unlike the Strokes after Is This It, the National had nowhere to go but up.
Also, the same author who wrote the above article interviewed Tom Berninger, the brother of lead singer Matt and director of the National tour documentary Mistaken For Strangers.